The Freud Museum


An Absurd Dream

“A man who had nursed his father through his last illness and had been deeply grieved by his death, had the following dream some time afterwards: His father was alive once more and was talking to him in his usual way but, the remarkable thing was, he had really died, only he did not know it.

“A dream is made absurd if a judgement that something is ‘absurd’ is included in the dream thoughts - that is to say, if any one of the dreamer’s unconscious trains of thought has criticism or ridicule as its motive.... It is by no means a matter of chance that our first examples of absurdity in dreams are related to a dead father. In such cases, the conditions for creating absurd dreams are found together in characteristic fashion. The authority wielded by a father provokes criticism from his children at an early age, and the severity of the demands he makes upon them leads them, for their own relief, to keep their eyes open to any weakness of their father’s; but the filial piety called up in our minds by the figure of the father, particularly after his death, tightens the censorship which prohibits any such criticism from being consciously expressed”

This dream only becomes intelligible if, after the words ‘but he had really died’ we insert ‘in consequence of the dreamer’s wish’, and if we explain that what he ‘did not know’ was that the dreamer had had this wish.” “Dreams of dead people whom the dreamer has loved raise difficult problems in dream-interpretation that cannot always be satisfactorily solved. The reason for this is to be found in the particularly strongly marked emotional ambivalence which dominates the dreamer’s relation to the dead person....

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